Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘best of’

23 DECEMBER, 2010

Len Kendall Sketchnotes the Best of Brain Pickings 2010

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This year, we asked some of our favorite visualization artists to each capture the 10 most popular Brain Pickings articles of 2010 in a single piece of artwork, and we’re revealing them one by one this month. After Stefanie Posavec, Sam Potts, Tiffany Farrant and Christina Tsevis, we continue with a longtime favorite — sketchnote master Len Kendall, whose work you may recall from the Brain Pickings 500.

The articles, in order of popularity:

  1. Mythical Beasts & Modern Monsters — three humorous takes on the relational understanding of the monsters ecosystem.
  2. Mapping European Stereotypes — a Bulgarian designer based in London pokes fun at Europeans’ xeno-bias and the subjective reality of nationalism.
  3. 7 Image Search Tools That Will Change Your Life — 7 visually-driven image search interfaces that change how we look for, find and catalog images.
  4. 7 Must-Read Books by TED Global Speakers — selection of the 7 most compelling books by speakers at this year’s TED Global in Oxford.
  5. How Do I Explain It To My Parents — Dutch abstract artists sit down with their parents and try to explain to them what they do, to a delightfully amusing effect.
  6. Vintage Posters for Modern Movies — a look at the faux-vintage design trend as it applies to film poster design, spotlighting the work of seven contemporary designers with a retrostalgic aesthetic.
  7. How To Be Alone — a poetic manifesto for the art of solitude.
  8. Strange Worlds: Miniature Condiment Landscapes — remarkable miniature landscapes made out of spices and condiments by artist Matthew Albanese.
  9. What Does It Mean To Be Human? — three disciplines (evolutionary biology, philosophy and neuroscience) tackle the grand question of existentialism.
  10. Literary Action Figures — you know you want them.

And as if Len’s signature style wasn’t enough of a treat, the artwork is actually image-mapped, which means you can click on the different elements to read the actual articles they represent.

Image Map

Want to go bigger? Grab the image as a PDF.

For more of Len’s work, do check out his brilliant the3six5 project and follow him on Twitter.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s main articles, and features short-form interestingness from our PICKED series. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

22 DECEMBER, 2010

2010’s Best Long Reads: Science & Technology

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Longreads and Brain Pickings have teamed up to highlight the most fascinating in-depth stories published on the web this year. Earlier, we featured the best of Business and Art, Design, Film & Music. Our final spotlight shines on Science, Medicine & Technology.

FOR THE LOVE OF CULTURE

Google, Copyright and Our Future (Lawrence Lessig, The New Republic, Jan. 26, 2010)

Time to read: 26 minutes (6,454 words)

In the wake of the Google Books project—and the subsequent settlement with publishers — Lessig calls for a new approach that untangles copyright law and helps keep information accessible to all.

What are the rules that will govern culture for the next hundred years? Are we building an ecology of access that demands a lawyer at every turn of the page?”

For more on this complex and controversial subject, see our continuous coverage of remix culture.

SEARCH FOR A STRESS VACCINE

Under Pressure: The Search for a Stress Vaccine (Jonah Lehrer, Wired, July 28, 2010)

Time to read: 23 minutes (5,700 words)

Lehrer profiles Robert Sapolsky, a scientist researching ways to create a vaccine-like treatment to protect people against stress. (In early research he’s injected a modified herpes virus into rodents’ brains.)

Sometimes it’s not enough just to tell people, ‘Jeez, you should really learn to relax.’ If stress is half as bad for you as we currently think it is, then it’s time to stop treating the side effects. It’s time to go after stress itself.”

NEW DRUGS AND CLINICAL TRIALS

New Drugs Stir Debate on Rules of Clinical Trials (Amy Harmon, New York Times, Sept. 19, 2010)

Time to read: 17 minutes (4,173 words)

A heartbreaking story from Harmon’s “Target Cancer” series about two cousins with skin cancer enrolled in the same clinical trial — but only one of them received the powerful new drug.

At times beseeching and belligerent, Mr. McLaughlin argued his cousin’s case to get the new drug with anyone he could find at U.C.L.A. ‘Hey, put him on it, he needs it,’ he pleaded. And then: ‘Who the hell is making these decisions?'”

THE STATUS QUO OF ELECTRIC CARS

The Status Quo of Electric Cars: Better Batteries, Same Range (Gail E. Tverberg, The Oil Drum, May 19, 2010)

Time to read: 16 minutes (3,940 words)

The Chevy Volt is Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year, but Tverberg argues that, in many ways, we’re no better off with electric cars than we were a century ago.

Weight, comfort, speed and performance have eaten up any real progress. We don’t need better batteries, we need better cars.”

AUTISM’S FIRST CHILD

Autism’s First Child (John Donvan and Caren Zucker, The Atlantic, October 2010)

Time to read: 33 minutes (8,165 words)

While there is quite a bit of attention on autism as it relates to children, what happens when they grow up? Donvan and Zucker track down Donald Gray Triplett, 77, the first person ever diagnosed with autism.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Donald’s life is that he grew up to be an avid traveler. He has been to Germany, Tunisia, Hungary, Dubai, Spain, Portugal, France, Bulgaria, and Colombia—some 36 foreign countries and 28 U.S. states in all.”

THE GOLDEN BOY AND THE INVISIBLE ARMY

The Golden Boy and the Invisible Army (Thomas Lake, Atlanta Magazine, June 2010)

Time to read: 19 minutes (4,777 words)

Writer Thomas Lake puts the H1N1 virus in human terms with this story of John Behnken, a 27-year-old Atlanta man who seemed an unlikely target for swine flu.

Dr. Stauffenberg had done close to 1,600 autopsies, and this was the first time she had seen an otherwise healthy person die from the unaided influenza virus.”

SHOULD WE CLONE NEANDERTHALS?

Should We Clone Neanderthals? (Zach Zorich, Archaeology, March/April 2010)

Time to read: 17 minutes (4,274 words)

An examination of the scientific, legal and ethical questions raised by the possibility that scientists may one day be able to clone neanderthals. At least one paleoanthropologist predicts: It’s going to happen.

If your experiment succeeds and you generate a Neanderthal who talks, you have violated every ethical rule we have, and if your experiment fails…well. It’s a lose-lose.”

THE PEANUT SOLUTION

The Peanut Solution (Andrew Rice, New York Times, Sept. 2, 2010)

Time to read: 21 minutes (5,258 words)

A peanut-buttery paste called Plumpy’nut is praised for its potential to help end malnutrition across the globe. Patents, intellectual property and competing interests make distribution more complicated.

I wouldn’t want to see a new world order where poor people are dependent on packaged supplementary foods that are manufactured in Europe or the United States.”

SHOOTING FOR THE SUN

Shooting for the Sun (Logan Ward, The Atlantic, November 2010)

Time to read: 13 minutes (3,149 words)

The story of Lonnie Johnson, an inventor with some 100 patents who is best-known for creating the Super Soaker squirt gun. His latest obsession: Bringing affordable solar power to the world.

Johnson is a member of what seems to be a vanishing breed: the self-invented inventor.”

THE PLASTIC PANIC

The Plastic Panic (Jerome Groopman, The New Yorker, May 31, 2010)

Time to read: 19 minutes (4,788 words)

Is the BPA found in plastic bottles actually harmful to us? And if so, why isn’t it banned in the United States? A look at the regulatory issues that keep potentially toxic chemicals in the marketplace.

The Toxic Substances Control Act, passed in 1976, does not require manufacturers to show that chemicals used in their products are safe before they go on the market.”

See more Longreads 2010 “best-of” lists here.

Mark Armstrong is a digital strategist, writer and founder of Longreads, a community and Twitter service highlighting the best long-form stories on the web. His thoughts about the future of publishing and content can be found here.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s main articles, and features short-form interestingness from our PICKED series. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

21 DECEMBER, 2010

Christina Tsevis Illustrates the Best of Brain Pickings

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This year, we asked some of our favorite visualization artists to each capture the 10 most popular Brain Pickings articles of 2010 in a single piece of artwork, and we’re revealing them one by one this month. After Stefanie Posavec, Sam Potts and Tiffany Farrant, we continue with one of our favorite artists — Greek illustrator Christina Tsevis, whom we interviewed last year and whose enchanted Alice in Wonderland work we featured earlier this year.

The articles, in order of popularity:

  1. Mythical Beasts & Modern Monsters — three humorous takes on the relational understanding of the monsters ecosystem.
  2. Mapping European Stereotypes — a Bulgarian designer based in London pokes fun at Europeans’ xeno-bias and the subjective reality of nationalism.
  3. 7 Image Search Tools That Will Change Your Life — 7 visually-driven image search interfaces that change how we look for, find and catalog images.
  4. 7 Must-Read Books by TED Global Speakers — selection of the 7 most compelling books by speakers at this year’s TED Global in Oxford.
  5. How Do I Explain It To My Parents — Dutch abstract artists sit down with their parents and try to explain to them what they do, to a delightfully amusing effect.
  6. Vintage Posters for Modern Movies — a look at the faux-vintage design trend as it applies to film poster design, spotlighting the work of seven contemporary designers with a retrostalgic aesthetic.
  7. How To Be Alone — a poetic manifesto for the art of solitude.
  8. Strange Worlds: Miniature Condiment Landscapes — remarkable miniature landscapes made out of spices and condiments by artist Matthew Albanese.
  9. What Does It Mean To Be Human? — three disciplines (evolutionary biology, philosophy and neuroscience) tackle the grand question of existentialism.
  10. Literary Action Figures — you know you want them.

Christina unleashes her signature textured whimsy in this absolutely beautiful illustration incorporating visual elements from each of the top ten stories:

[Click image to enlarge]

See more of Christina’s wonderful work here and follow her on Twitter.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s main articles, and features short-form interestingness from our PICKED series. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

20 DECEMBER, 2010

Tiffany Farrant Visualizes the Best of Brain Pickings

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This year, we asked some of our favorite visualization artists to each capture the 10 most popular Brain Pickings articles of 2010 in a single piece of artwork, and we’re revealing them one by one this month. Last week, we started with the ever-brilliant Stefanie Posavec, followed by a delightfully semi-literal interpretation by Sam Potts.

Today, we’re proud to present the work of UK-based infographic designer and artist Tiffany Farrant, who created a cunning infographic to capture the volume of traffic and social conversations surrounding the top 10 articles.

[Click image to enlarge]

The articles, in order of popularity:

  1. Mythical Beasts & Modern Monsters — three humorous takes on the relational understanding of the monsters ecosystem.
  2. Mapping European Stereotypes — a Bulgarian designer based in London pokes fun at Europeans’ xeno-bias and the subjective reality of nationalism.
  3. 7 Image Search Tools That Will Change Your Life — 7 visually-driven image search interfaces that change how we look for, find and catalog images.
  4. 7 Must-Read Books by TED Global Speakers — selection of the 7 most compelling books by speakers at this year’s TED Global in Oxford.
  5. How Do I Explain It To My Parents — Dutch abstract artists sit down with their parents and try to explain to them what they do, to a delightfully amusing effect.
  6. Vintage Posters for Modern Movies — a look at the faux-vintage design trend as it applies to film poster design, spotlighting the work of seven contemporary designers with a retrostalgic aesthetic.
  7. How To Be Alone — a poetic manifesto for the art of solitude.
  8. Strange Worlds: Miniature Condiment Landscapes — remarkable miniature landscapes made out of spices and condiments by artist Matthew Albanese.
  9. What Does It Mean To Be Human? — three disciplines (evolutionary biology, philosophy and neuroscience) tackle the grand question of existentialism.
  10. Literary Action Figures — you know you want them.

See more of Tiffany’s wonderful work here and follow her on Twitter.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s main articles, and features short-form interestingness from our PICKED series. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

20 DECEMBER, 2010

The Best Children’s Books of 2010

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Lost owls, found cats, and how contemporary art is helping sick children heal.

Last week, we spotlighted the year’s best books in Business, Life & Mind and Art, Design & Photography, as part of our end-of-year best-of series. Today, we’re back with the 10 most delightful literary and visual treats for young readers and their creatively sophisticated parents.

I LEGO N.Y.

Between our massive culture-crush on the amazing Christoph Niemann and our soft spot for all things LEGO, I LEGO N.Y. was a natural swoon-maker. Though not necessarily a children’s book per se, this imaginative look at New York rendered entirely in LEGO embodies Niemann’s incredible penchant for taking something ordinary and transforming it into pure whimsy.

I LEGO N.Y. came out in March and is Niemann’s print publishing debut as a sole author. (Though he has illustrated and co-authored a number of other treats). We can’t wait to see what he imagines next.

AN AWESOME BOOK OF THANKS!

We have a well-documented distaste for both exclamation points and the word “awesome” — mostly because they’re linguistic indulgences used far too often and indicative of actual merit far too rarely. But artist Dallas Clayton‘s An Awesome Book of Thanks! more than lives up to the linguistic promise of its title. A sequel to his 2008 An Awesome Book!, a lovely illustrated children’s book about dreaming big, this new treat is charmingly illustrated manifesto for gratitude and the art of being thankful. And as if this isn’t enough of a ray of light in the world, Clayton also gives one copy of the book to a child in need for every copy of it sold.

Sample this gem with a video introduction by Clayton and pages from the book in our full review.

13 WORDS

13 Words is a meeting of two great talents: Iconic illustrator Maira Kalman and the one and only Lemony Snicket of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The beloved children’s author curates 13 of the most essential words of all time and pairs each with original illustrations in Kalman’s signature style of delectable, childlike simplicity.

Our full review, complete with a lovely animated trailer for the book illustrated by Kalman herself, can be found here.

THE HEART AND THE BOTTLE

Oliver Jeffers is one of the most prolific and whimsical children’s book authors and illustrators of our time, equal parts artist and storyteller. With modern classics like Lost and Found and The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, he has carved himself a special place in the hearts of creative parents and their offspring. This year, Jeffers returned with another slam-dunk: The Heart and the Bottle — the breathtakingly illustrated and touching story of a little girl who bottles up her pain when her grandfather passes away, with an underlying message about the importance of keeping curiosity alive.

I keep writing children’s books, I keep making children’s books, because I still have them inside of me.” ~ Oliver Jeffers

As of this month, The Heart and the Bottle is also available as a stunning iPad Picture Book app

via Swiss Miss

BETWEEN THE LINES

Nonprofit RxArt uses the power of art to aid healing by placing contemporary art in children’s hospitals and clinics in an effort to transform these sterile environments into comforting havens, inspiring healing and hope in kids, their families and the tireless medical staff that takes care of them. Between The Lines is a wonderful coloring book and fundraising tool for the RxArt program, featuring over 50 original line drawings by some of today’s most celebrated contemporary artists, including Takashi Murakami, Ed Ruscha and Cynthia Rowley, plus a series of delightfully vibrant stickers designed by Nate Lowman and Mickalene Thomas.

Take an exclusive peek inside the book’s beautiful artwork in our full review.

THE QUIET BOOK

From author Deborah Underwood and illustrator Renata Liwska comes The Quiet Book, which may just be the new bedtime classic of our time. The stuffed-animal heroes of the story aren’t merely adorable, their body language and facial expressions harbor a level of emotional complexity that is simply astounding. The book is as much a soft-colored illustrated lullaby for tiny humans as it is a meditation on life’s peaceful moments for humans of all sizes.

Amazon has some exclusive sketches from Liwska’s drawing pad, very much worth a look.

DOG LOVES BOOKS

On the surface, Louise Yates’ Dog Loves Books is the story of a little white dog who opens a bookstore and, after no customers come, occupies himself by reading. The story, of course, is really about the life of the mind and the importance of pursuing one’s own curiosity — something at the core of our philosophy here at Brain Pickings. Yates manages to deliver this message to young readers in charming, dreamy watercolor drawings and soft pastel pencil illustrations, a most delightful primer for a lifetime of bibliophilia and imaginative intellectual curiosity.

Dog Loves Books is the follow-up to Yates’ excellent 2009 bunny adventure, A Small Surprise.

THERE ARE NO CATS IN THIS BOOK

Viviane Schwarz‘s There Are No Cats in This Book is a lie — there are cats in this book, plenty of them, each more delightfully mischievous than the next. The story takes a charming meta turn as Tiny, Moonpie and Andre, the three lead feline heroes, decide to escape the confines of the book and venture out into the world — a narrative technique whose analogy in theater and cinema is known as “breaking the fourth wall.”

Beautifully illustrated, brimming with bold colors, and wildly playful from cover to cover, There Are No Cats in This Book is a wonderful exercise in full-immersion storytelling for young readers.

LITTLE OWL LOST

Little Owl Lost is the kind of book that feels like a beautifully designed poster that somehow accidentally contorted and folded itself into a different format and, in the process of it, unfolded a captivating story. Despite — or perhaps precisely because of — the completely flat colors and plethora of negative space, Chris Haughton manages to deliver a potent dose of suspense and surprise for a dynamic narrative full of wide-eyed creatures and vibrant forest landscapes, designed and art-directed with a kind of craftsmanship and creative vision that make the turning of each page an absolute treat.

Little Owl Lost came out in August. 36Pages has a short but excellent interview with the author about his creative process.

via Swiss Miss

ART & MAX

David Wiesner is one of the most prolific and beloved living picture book creators. Three of his books (Flotsam, Tuesday and The Three Pigs) are winners of the prestigious Caldecott Medal, making him one of only two three-time winners of the medal in the award’s 73-year history. This year, he bestowed his latest piece of creative genius upon the world: Art & Max, the charming and colorful story of two artist friends: Art, a collared lizard with a penchant for portraits, and Max, a smaller lizard armed with a restless paintbrush. The two embark upon a vibrant, eye-popping journey into art and color.

Amazon has some fascinating exclusive images showing the development of Wiesner’s illustration and named Art & Max their #1 picture book of the year.

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